India’s Penal Code section 294: A Prohibited Romance

India

India has on of the fastest growing economies and population in the world and its on the path towards globalisation. As it stands India is a conservative state with most of its laws derived from cultural influences. Laws such as the obscene acts law under section 294 of the Indian penal code, which prohibits any obscene acts in public. India being extremely conservative showing of affection to the opposite sex (hand holding, Hugging, kissing and even walking with the opposite sex) is seen as obscene. Due to this success a lot of the
youth grew up with access to western entertainment, this has started to create a clear generational divide
when it comes to societal issues such ass intimacy and dating.india map outline with flag

Leaving the youth in fear of public persecution as well as fear of being arrested by police resulting in a large divide within the country. Most of the younger generation does not believe this should be considered a crime calling it out date and out of touch, potentially having a negative effect on future generations.

Meet Karan

Karan Kumar
Karan Kumar

To get a better understanding of the issue I got in touch with young adults who lives in India to better clarify the state of the nation from his point of view. Karan Kumar is postgraduate student at the Asia College of journalism in Chennai, he was originally born in Siwan in the state of Bihar. Mr Kumar informed me on how he is studying 2000km from his home. Which for me, immediately brought a perspective on the vastness of India as a nation.

The immensity of such a large country could not be ignored as its possible that cultural views could change over distance, so I asked him the differences between his hometown and Chennai where he is currently studying.

“Bihar and Chennai are like two different worlds in the same country, India is so diverse that a lot changes even when you move few kilometres. Here we have totally different food from what we used to have in my hometown, culture is different language is different and even festivals too are different.”

I was curious as to how Karan Manages to communicate with others in a place with a completely different language he told me:

“So, major problem I face is food and language. The common language is English. And you can not communicate with those who do not know English”.

It was clear that some western culture has seeped into india and it is connecting people who would not normally have access to each other. Karan went on to tell me about his experience living in the capital city New Delhi whilst doing his undergraduate degree. We eventually got onto the topic of dating in India. . . Karan was a bit hesitant, he informed that many young couples don’t often talk about their love life, he was however happy to answer a few questions from his own perspective.

Karan On Dating in India

ON: I hear it’s quite a Conservative country and a lot of things are frowned upon for example physical affection

KK: Yes, but its conservative in terms of physical affection, Most of the people don’t like it, but it’s changing with new generations and in bigger cities

ON: What are your opinions on physical affection?

KK: It depends on the person, if both of them agree people should not bother about it but it should be avoided at public places

ON: What are the usual negative repercussions for couples being affectionate in public?

KK: No negative effects but its not culturally acceptable and its changing not no one cares in big cities there is no problem when you go in villages they have problem because in India there is a culture of arrange marriage

Karan had enlightened me on what dating is like from the perspective of a sinlge male in india. However I was still curious to find out from the male and female perspectives of couples who did live in the country.

The Couple

Like Karan had warned me. The couple was a bit hesitant about Speaking out on their opinions publicly. Being such a polarizing subject, they suggested I change their names for the sake of their security. For this Interview the boy would be represented, as Negi and the girl will be Naveena.

Negi

I wanted to know why they were so scared of this topic, Negi managed to divulge some of his fears to me regarding the subject of affection and proximity within couples

 “When you are talking about physical relationships and proximity there is this fear when couples are walking around there is this thing when you have fear of the police you have to be careful of the police”-Negi

It became apparent the reality of going to prison plays on the minds of couples in India and makes it difficult for them to be affectionate. He went to tell me how they have to be constantly aware of where they are and who is watching them when they are together. According to Negi the issue was not confined to public display of affection, they also had trouble finding a private place as society does not allow for young unmarried couples to live together, adding to their frustration. Furthermore Negi says even after securing your own place the danger of a police raid remains. However the young man is confident society is changing, not as quickly as he would like, but the movie industry is helping to break the barriers that have been built by the culture.

Closing on the conversation Negi, gave me an enlightened response on the question of where this problem originated from and how they are going to balance living under the “Obscene acts Law”

“The reason would be I wouldn’t exactly go by tradition, I would say it’s the cultural perception. The way we look at how our culture is meant to be practiced the way you are meant to maintain the name of the family

With all those things put together when we try to understand what Modern sensibilities are and we look at how our society is transforming

We are caught between a lot of things you know peer pressure, with teenage, there’s a lot of things that keep happening around us. 

Even with the visuals we see from videos and movies, there are a lot of influences that we have with us right now, what draws us in and what doesn’t there is a lot of differences and you know sometimes it’s up to us to make those differences clear and in that fine point we might get too comfortable for some people’s liking. Which again is per how people view it. “- Negi

Naveena

Naveen chimed in to share her perspective on the restriction she has face publicly and the role culture plays by confessing

“Talking about society and culture in India I must talk about not only the private spots but even whilst being in a vehicle you must have to be careful about how you are being with your boyfriend with a male friend even”

For Naveena the issue was not limited to how she held herself publicly with a partner. The issue extended to how you are viewed by the public when with any member of the opposite sex. She expressed that she experiences large discomfort stemming from being forced to not be herself around her male friends and siblings.

Parting Words

The young couple informed me that most india families are not open to dropping the obscene acts law as they fear the youths will begin to lose touch of their own culture and begin going towards a western culture. However Naveena is optimistic as she feels most families are beginning to accept the integration of the genders and the current young generation widely accepts having the choice to be able to show affection to a member of the opposite sex.

To end conclude the story I thought I would speak to a student who has had western experience. Azlan Hussain was the perfect candidate as he is also part of the indian upper class and in India class plays a factor on what you can and cannot do. To follow the story Click Here